The architectural design of buildings may be partially to blame for aiding the epidemic of obesity in America, suggests a new report from the nonprofit Trust of America’s Health. While much emphasis has been placed on enhancing outdoor spaces such as bike lanes and sidewalks, the report notes, planners and builders have been less focused on improving building interiors to enhance health.
Research finds “a link between built environments—all the human-made physical aspects of a community—and both physical activity and obesity,” according to the Trust’s report. The nonprofit is urging architects to be more mindful of how the design of interior spaces can increase physical activity, especially because research indicates the average person spends about 90 percent of their time indoors. Today, nearly 40 percent of Americans are obese, including 18.5 percent of children under the age of 18, the report notes.
Helping Residents Live Longer
Architects are not only experimenting with designs that could help shrink waistlines but also potentially increase a person’s lifespan.
Some cities have adopted measures to make stairways a more prominent design feature in homes in order to fight obesity. New York, for example, has adopted “active design guidelines” urging the need for prominent placement of stairs, ramps, and other elements to increase physical activity. The guidelines also downplay elevators and escalators as options for movement indoors.
The Trust also notes that highly visible, centrally located staircases that are enhanced by artwork or light exposure could urge more people to take the stairs instead of riding in the elevator in commercial buildings. “It is imperative that architects find ways to include exercise as part of one’s everyday experience within public as well as private buildings,” an article in Architect Magazine notes. “After all, fitness should not be an exceptional activity but a common one made irresistible by design.”